Saturday, July 21, 2007

South Vietnam, The American Waterloo: Saigon's "Navy Mayor" In Trouble (previously unpublished)

November 4, 1966

Saigon, South Viet Nam--The antics of one high ranking officer in Saigon has left many of the military brass here embarrassed and amazed.

The man who has left them with a lump in their throats is Navy Captain Archie C. Kuntze, a 1942 graduate of the Naval Academy, and a native of Kenosha, Wisc.

He's currently awaiting trial by court martial at Treasure Island (California) on four charges which were pressed as a result of his alleged activities as the commanding officer of Naval Support Activities in Saigon.

One military source described Kuntze as, "a Fiorello LaGuardia type. (former mayor of New York City) who became deeply enmeshed in Saigon politics."

Kuntze, the source said, never failed to show up after a bombing in Saigon, dressed in his whites and armed with a snub nose .38 caliber pistol. He didn't come to help anyone, the source said. He came to have his picture taken.

"He was the darling of the press."

For two years, Kuntze headed the Naval Support activities, which spent more than $60 million a year and employed more than 7,000 people.

He was responsible for every post exchange, operation of all commissaries, billeting, the post office, money exchange, and numerous other duties.

He referred to himself as, "The Navy Mayor of Saigon," one officer reported. And according to several military men, he practically ran the town while living as highly as a Persian Prince.

One critic said, "While we didn't have enough water to shave with, he was living in a villa like a king, swigging booze from a bar that supposedly cost more than $3,000."

In mid-1965, an investigation of Kuntze began. Several things turned up which caused him to be relieved of command during August. One matter involved hair spray.

Kuntze reportedly ordered 150,000 cans of women's hair spray for sale in the post exchanges. What puzzled folks was the fact that only 750 women were in Viet Nam who had PX privileges.

Captain Kuntze is charged with giving false testimony, the violation of an order, making official statements which were intended to deceive, and of conduct unbecoming an officer.

It is reported that the black market boomed while Kuntze ran Saigon.

But, the black market is booming now also. The people who expressed disdain for Kuntze say, to his credit, that while he ran the PXs they were much better stocked.

Even his enemies don't knock Kuntze as a Navy man. They know he's a veteran of World War II and winner of the Legion of Merit and Bronze Star during the Korean War. He was also wounded during the Korean War.

Perhaps he did slip. The Navy will find out why. And, as one observer said, "Maybe they'll find a way to keep military personnel out of politics and the temptations involved."

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